Prior to the start if this inland, upstream paddle to Chicago, I had met Jane Enterline at the Blue Vision Summit in DC. The Blue Vision Summit is a gathering of ocean loving individuals, organizations-both big and small, local “seaweed” groups operating on shoestring budgets, and ocean related governmental agency representatives and elected officials. It is, hands down, the largest constituency of ocean lovers to descend upon DC with the express purpose of networking and lobbying our elected individuals. We make it abundantly clear that the ocean needs a place in the national debate; it is simply too big to fail.
Blue Frontier, which hosts this event, and of which this two part paddle to New Orleans is a project, provides valuable tools needed to network and help small seaweed organizations grow and effectively use their voice. The every other year Summits coincide with the yearly Benchley Awards, which alternate between DC and San Francisco. More info about this organization can be found at http://bluefront.org I am super proud of the fact that Blue Frontier, which is basically a two person organization with a very active board and interns, is a nimble and efficient user of funds. Please consider making a donation on their donation page so they can help small organizations maximize their voice and reach and help the larger, DC based national organizations connect with the movers and shakers on the ground, where June Barnard, my past logistics manager and teammate described it, “the rubber meets the road.”
One such group is Jane’s new start up, which came to be as a direct result of the Colorado Ocean Coalition’s “ocean ambassador” program. Jane heads the Great Lakes Ocean Coalition which is a chapter of the Colorado Ocean Coalition. Who doesn’t love a group that “protects the ocean from a mile high?”
Jane organized a lively gathering at the Little Traverse Bay Yacht Club where I was given the floor, or rather, chair (yes, like my preacher grandad who stood on a soap box on a street corner in Brooklyn, I stood on a chair!) to basically “preach to the choir.” The questions were really great post preaching, varying from exactly what is my boat to what to do about invasive species since it’s like “pissing into the wind” and appears as if efforts to remedy the situation at times seem worse than the problem of invasives.
Then we heard from Chuck Glass who spoke about the pipeline across the Straits of Mackinac. Pipelines are a HUGE issue, not just because of the damage to the watersheds and water during installation, but also of course if they rupture or leak. The long list of “oops, sorry, we didn’t mean for the leak to happen/happen for so long undetected, etc, etc,” plus, no company will EVER guarantee that a pipeline won’t leak, plus, and you can head on over to any one of the websites of any number of anti-pipeline groups, “north jersey pipelinewalkers” (http://www.northjerseypipelinewalkers.com) comes to mind, and you will see federal inspectors for pipelines are far and few between. Never mind that some substances going through these pipelines are near impossible to clean up (check out Hudson Riverkeeper and Delaware Riverkeeper for info on this). The problem with the debate over pipelines though, is that what is at issue, and often gets lost in what appears to be a “NIMBY” argument, is that they put ALL of or water at risk. These pipelines and this issue will only go away when we finally confront the dire need to shift away from carbon based energy sources.
I remember learning about “peak oil” in fourth grade or so. While it seems we have huge reserves, and we probably do, we are increasingly putting our precious drinking water and our ocean at HUGE risk by continuing to develop these resources and the risk intensive infrastructure to go with it. From the extraction of, to the transport of, to the burning of, PLUS The extremely inefficient means of delivering energy (40% of all energy generated is wasted in transmission-google it!!!), we have got to have a serious debate about our energy policy. Our public lands, our precious water resources, our ocean, heck, we as a species are at great risk if we don’t.
There…climbing off my chair now!
Inhale deeply twice, one from rain forest & tree based sources of oxygen, the other from the ocean, exhale, and pick up the paddle and GO!